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National Soccer Coach Terms Are Too Short

Posted August. 24, 2005 03:01,   


Amid the recent media frenzy over the possible resignation of Johannes Bonfrere, the board of directors of the Korea Football Association was sent into a state of anxiety caused by concern that criticism would be directed toward Chung Mong-Joon, the president of the Korea Football Association. The Association, once again, has used the mere stopgap measure of forcing the resignation of the national team coach, succumbing to the strong demands by the public and the media, in a move seemingly made for the president. The association has repeated its old trick of placing all the blame on the manager’s shoulders to prevent the consequences of public opinion upon itself.

Coach Bonfrere claims to be the one who called for the resignation, but all experts on the matter believe that it was in fact forced upon him. Humberto Coelho, an ex-coach of the National Team, left with the words, “I was sacked,” despite the Association’s announcement of his voluntary resignation.

The same pattern applies to the replacement of Cha Bum-keun in the 1998 World Cup in France, and of Huh Jung-moo during the 2000 Asian Cup. The association has never ceased to place the blame on the manager at times when disappointment among the public over the national team’s poor performance started to surface.

Such acts have been repeatedly occurring, with President Chung appropriating soccer to meet his own political ends. Regarding Coach Bonfrere, the association’s board of directors had declared that it had “faith in the coach and would sustain the current system until the 2006 World Cup.” But with criticism targeted at not only Coach Bonfrere but also toward the board of directors and even President Chung, it immediately altered its stance, eventually winning over Coach Bonfrere.

Chairman of the technical committee Lee Hoi-taek’s (shown in photo) words demonstrated yet another cliché, where he said, “It would be an act of evading responsibility if the technical committee resigned altogether during a crisis in which the coach has resigned.” The Board of Directors responsible for replacing former coaches are still firmly holding onto their spots as high-ranking executives. Claiming that they will “go all the way” with every newly introduced manager, the Technical Committee has barely taken the blame during its continuous replacement of managers, who are used as scapegoats in place of President Chung and the Committee. Those who contributed in salvaging President Chung from the public’s criticism receive the “reward” of keeping their positions on the board.

Now, even the fans are fully aware of the association’s intentions. Nevertheless, the association continues its attempts at deceiving the public. This explains why Korean soccer, once the creator of the “incredible semi-final feat” in the 2002 World Cup, is failing to find any balance or hope.

Lee Yong-soo (a professor at Sejong University), a commentator for KBS, added the words, “Replacing the coach is not the best solution. If it is the coach who lacks ability, a replacement may be necessary. However, soccer in Korea will continue long after the World Cup in Germany. A rational choice based upon long-term insight must be made. As there is no vision, it is no surprise that the association is greatly influenced by the public’s voice.”

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com